If we're being honest it can be easy to hate on some weight divisions, and one of those that is an easy target is the Featherweight division, especially in 2020 when almost no big bouts took place in it. In a division that has the likes of Can Xu, Josh Warrington, Gary Russell Jr and Emanuel Navarrete there is the talent there for some phenomenal bouts but sadly we've not seem much at all worth being excited about. Fingers crossed 2021 will be a much, much better year for the division.
Thankfully whilst the division's biggest and brightest haven't given us much to talk about the division does still have some interesting action going on below the top level, and on November 23rd we get the chance to see one of the rising hopefuls of the division in action, as he takes on a serious puncher. The bout isn't set to get much international attention, but it should still deliver some action.
The bout in question will pit WBO Asia Pacific champion Musashi Mori (11-0, 6) against heavy handed challenger Tsuyoshi Tameda (21-5-2, 19), in one of the more interesting bouts the division has given us this year. On paper it might not look that interesting, but in reality the bout is a perfect mix of styles, and a serious test for a man who turns 21 the day before the fight.
The unbeaten champion is the big hope from the gym run by former WBC Bantamweight champion Yasuei Yakushiji, and has been guided brilliantly so far. He debuted aged 17 and won the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2017, the following year he won the WBO Asia Pacific title, narrowly over-coming Richard Pumicpic, and since then has been learning under the guidance of Ismael Salas. It's been under Salas' guidance that we've seen Mori build around his strength's and go from an aggressive fighter, to be a well balanced boxer, with a might better defense and understanding of the ring.
Under Salas we have seen Mori become a touch boring, dull and less exciting than he once was. On one hand that is disappointing, but it's clearly been a change that will increase Mori's in ring success and it's clear that he's not a much more polished boxer than he was. He's quick, sharp, moves around the ring well and has a razor like southpaw straight left hand. One thing we don't see from him often enough, for our liking, is a jab thrown with intent, but it is in his arsenal, as are short, crafty uppercuts to the body. Although he's technically very good we don't see the X-Factor with him at the moment. He's talented, but lacks that eye catching speed, good night power and we do query his physical maturity, with the youngster still looking like a body. In a year or two, when he build his man strength, that might change, but at the moment it very feels like he needs more time to develop and at 20 going on 21, talk of a world title fight is too soon in our eyes.
At one point Tsuyoshi Tameda looked like a star in the making, and was a stand-out, thrill a minute youngster. He turned professional in 2011, at the age of 17, and was one of the last students under the legendary eye of Kenji Yonekura. As a youngster he kicked off his career with 3 opening round KO's and looked like a destructive force. In just his 5th bout he fought to a draw with Masayuki Ito in the Rookie of the Year, before being beaten a fight later. Following his first loss Tameda went on a role and moved to 13-1-2 (11), including wins over future Japanese national champion Takenori Ohashi and Filipino fighter Mark Bernaldez. Then he lost to Simipiwe Vetyeka, losing a gruelling and 1-sided decision to the talent South African. Sadly Tameda has never really bounced back from that loss and has gone 8-3 since then with stoppage losses to the tricky Reiya Abe, the touted Hinata Maruta and the all action Jae Woo Lee. He's still shown rock hands, but those losses have shown that his chin is cracked, and that he can be stopped.
Now at the age of 27 there are real question marks about just what Tameda has left. Technically he's never been the best, despite being guided first by Yonekura and now by Hideyuki Ohashi. He has always been fun, a devastating puncher, and a real danger man, but has always struggled against fighters that can take his blows and those that can counter him. He makes a lot of mistakes, and gives opponents lots of chances to tag him, but if he lands he can take fighters out, as we saw in stunning fashion Takenori Ohashi.
For this bout we are really interested in several things. Firstly can Tameda land on Mori? And if so can Mori take the power of Tameda? We know Tameda can struggle to land on fighters but when he lands he does tend to chake them up and if Mori is caught clean by a right hand, even once, it will be very interesting to see how he responds. Secondly can Mori get Tameda's respect? If not is he capable of playing keep away for 12 rounds? Tameda does seem like he's somewhat damaged compared to the fighter he once was, but with Mori not having stand out power there's a chance his shots bounce off Tameda as the challenger comes forward.
We suspect the movement, skills, speed and timing of Mori will be the difference. We expect to see the youngster take a shot or two, but not cleanly and not solidly enough to really test his chin, and when he is tagged he'll tie up or get out of dodge. But there will always be that danger of him eating one and coming undone. Tameda will always try, and will always feel he had the power to turn things around, but we feel that after 7 or 8 rounds his steam will run out and Mori will ease over the finish line for a clear decision.
Prediction - UD12 Mori
One of the best division's in the sport right now is the Light Flyweight division, which is a division full of talented fighters, promising match ups, and exciting hopefuls. It's a division that has gone under-the-radar historically but has started to get more and more buzz around it in the last few years thanks to the emergence of some fantastic fighters, like Kenshiro Teraji, Felix Alvarado, Carlos Canizales and Hiroto Kyoguchi.
On November 23rd we see two more men looking to throw their hats into the ring and move towards a world title fight in 2021. The bout in question will see 23 year old southpaw Riku Kano (16-4-1, 8) take on the often under-rated Ryoki Hirai (13-6-1, 4) in a contest for the WBO Asia Pacific title. With the title here the winner will find themselves leaping the queue towards a WBO world title fight, and the loser will have a long, long road back to being a contender, making this a very important bout for the two men involved.
Of the two fighters it's the 23 year old Kano who is the more well known. The youngster made his debut way back in 2013, in the Philippines, and despite losing on debut he began to build some moment soon afterwards. Just over a year after debuting he claimed the WBA Asia Minimumweight title, at the age of 17 and still hadn't made his Japanese debut. When he did finally head back to Japan, in 2015, he did so with some genuine buzz around him and expectation around him. That buzz would lead to him getting a world title fight in 2016, at the age of 18, against Katsunari Takayama. The bout was set up with the hope of Kano becoming the youngest ever Japanese world champion, but in the end Takayama was too good, taking a technical decision over Kano.
Sadly for Kano that buzz has never quite comeback and he's gone 6-2 since that loss, with defeats to Jerry Tomogdan and Shin Ono. He has now moved up in weight, though it's hard to know id he will ever "come good" and reach the heights expected of him.
Despite falling short so far Kano is a solid boxer-mover. He's quick, sharp, has nice balance and good skills. Sadly however he's very much lacking in the physical aspects of the sport. He's a light puncher, who doesn't sit on his shots, and doesn't have the physical strength and power to hold his own against a man pressing him. Kano also has question marks over his heart, and he seemed to mentally crumble against Shin Ono. He's a talented fighter, but very an immature one, mentally and physically. Thankfully for him, those issues can be worked on and sorted out, but will need to be worked on NOW!
Whilst much was made of Kano's career early on Hirai never got that early attention. That was, in part, due to his struggles to build any career momentum. He won his first 3 bouts but quickly fell to 3-3-1 and was later 5-4-1. By that point his career looked like it was going no where and he wasn't helped by fighting with a small promoter in Kobe. And then things started to change for Hirai who began to not some good wins, including victories over Takumi Sakai and Ryoya Ikema. Those wins lead to him getting a Japanese title fight in 2018, with Hirai losing a close decision to Shin Ono. Following that loss he suffered another razor thin set back, to Yuto Takahashi, before getting his career back up and running in 2019, with 3 wins.
In the ring Hirai is an interesting fighter. He's not got the highest work rate and he's not the most destructive. What he is however is a solid body puncher, he knows his way around the ring and is surprisingly quick, with both hands and feet. At world level we don't see him making much of an impact, though he could be a banana skin against the right champion, however at domestic and regional level he's a legitimate threat and he could be too much for Kano here.
It's fair to say that Kano is the man with the expectations on his shoulders, and at the time of writing he's the clear favourite with those polled on Boxmob, however we see him really struggling here.
Kano is the better boxer. He's the quicker, smoother, better natural talent. He is however the sort of man who struggled with pressure, and tenacity, and we expect to see that from Hirai, as we saw against Ikema. Our prediction here is a good start for Kano, but as the bout goes on, and he begins to slow down, Hirai's pressure will get to him, and break him down. Eventually Kano's mental strength will be question, and he'll come up short for answers, eventually being stopped.
Prediction - TKO9 Hirai
After an increase in fights in July and August it does appears things in Japan are going to quieten down a little bit in September, sadly. Thankfully however we do kick the month off with a brilliant match up this coming Thursdays from Korakuen Hall, and it really does have the potential to be something very special.
That is the triple title bout between JBC, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (12-0, 10) and former Japanese Light Welterweight champion Valentine Hosokawa (25-7-3, 12). On paper it may not look like a sensational bout, but in reality this has the potential to be something truly brilliant, between men with styles that should gel brilliantly to give us something special.
The talented and heavy handed Yoshino has has been moved very quickly since turning professional back in 2015. After debuting at Welterweight he has cut his weight and become the face of Japanese boxing at Lightweight. In his 4th professional bout he beat veteran Yoshitaka Kato and just 2 fights later he became the Japanese Lightweight champion. He added regional titles to his collection last year and will be hoping to keep all 3 bits of silverware here.
In the ring Yoshino really is a boxer-puncher, with some of the heaviest hands in Japanese boxing. He's a clean puncher, has under-rated movement, good hand speed and solid footwork. If we're looking for flaws he can be a slow starter at times, his defense isn't the tightest and he can be out jabbed, out moved and out worked. So far his power had worked as a neutraliser when he has been in trouble, as we saw against Izuki Tomioka in February, but there are areas to work on. He's not a complete fighter, but he is a damn good one, and one who does have the potential to mix with some of the fighters in the upper echelons of the division.
Aged 39 and sporting 7 losses in 35 bouts Valentine Hosokawa is a fighter who loves to defy numbers. He should be too old, he should be too battle worn, he should be on the way on the way out. In fact he should have been on the way out years ago. Like a fine wine however the warrior from the Kadoebi Gym has aged wonderfully and has had the best form of his career at an age where most fighters are retired. He had been putting in great performances, win or lose. He has dropped in weight recently and now looks more dangerous at 135lbs than he ever did at 140lbs, where he was always a nightmare to fight.
Hosokawa made his debut in 2006, and won Rookie of the Year in 2008. He came up short in his first two title fights, both in 2013, but won the Japanese in 2017, beating rival and friend Koichi Aso. After twice defending the title he was dethroned last year by Koki Inoue and then dropped in weight and destroyed Kosuke Arioka last November. He had planned a fight against Jacob Ng in Australia, but that fell through due to the on-going global situation but he's now landed this fight.
For those who hasn't seen Hosokawa he's a physically strong, aggressive, tough, hard working pressure fighter. He comes to win, he presses and lets his hands go. Although not a huge puncher he is a serious volume puncher and makes for real action fights.
Given Hosokawa's aggression and willingness to go forward we see him pressing from the off, and actually copying a gameplan that Harmonito Dela Torre tried to use against Yoshino. That gameplan did see Dela Torre get to Yoshino, before eating an absolute part way through the opening round. For Hosokawa he needs to keep up the pressure, use his strength and try to grind down Yoshino without taking too many risks. Despite moving down in weight worth noting that even at Lightweight he's a small fighter, and will be dwarfed by Yoshino here.
For Yoshino the focus will be on creating space, catching Hosokawa coming forward, and landing his power shots. He'll have to use his feet, he'll have to land very hard clean shots, and have to try and stop the forward march of the challenger. Although Yoshino is a hard puncher it's worth noting Hosokawa hasn't been stopped since back to back TKO defeats in 2013 to Shinya Iwabuchi and Min Wook Kim, and those losses both came at 140lbs.
We do favour Yoshino to take home the win here, we feel his youth, power, height and reach will be the difference, but he will have to work very hard for the win and we do not expect this one to be an easy one for the champion.
Prediction - UD12 Yoshino
The WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title has become one of the more important titles regional titles in recent years with a host of it's title holders moving on from the regional belt to a world title fight. Since 2010 we have seen holders include Tepparith Kokietgym, Froilan Saludar, Sho Kimura, Masahiro Sakamoto and Wulan Tuolehazi all go on to fight for a world title, with Tepparith and Kimura both going on to claim global honours.
With that in mind the August 19th WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title bout between Ryota Yamauchi (6-1, 5) and Satoru Todaka (10-3-4, 4) is a pretty significant one, and will likely see the winner taking a huge step towards a future world title shot of their own. With that said the bout is one worthy of genuine attention and makes for a great main event on the upcoming "Slugfest" show.
Coming in to the bout the big favourite will be once beaten 25 year old Yamauchi, a Kadoebi promoted fighter who has long been tipped as a star of the future. He made his debut in 2017 and quickly scored notable wins over Lester Abutan and Yota Hori, wins that instantly got us excited about the trajectory he was on. Sadly his career hit a bump in 2019 when he travelled to China and lost a decision to Wulan Tuolehazi, in what was a truly brilliant fight. The loss was a debatable one, but it did, clearly, slow Yamauchi's rise.
Thankfully since that loss Yamauchi has bounced back, scoring wins against Alphoe Dagayloan and MJ Bo.
In the ring Yamauchi is a boxer-puncher, though he can employee a pressure style and a brawling style pretty effectively when he needs to up the tempo. Sadly for him he is still some defensively naive and was consistently tagged by Tuolehazi in their bout last year. He was dropped, and hurt several times, in that bout, and it's clear he does need to work on his defense. He is however a real talent and given he's only had 7 bouts he has shown a lot of potential and a lot of ability that suggests he could go on to win a world title sooner rather than later. With that in mind he's certainly wanting a regional title, to help open the door to a world title fight down the line.
In the opposite corner to Yamauchi will be 30 year old foe Satoru Todaka, who turned professional way back in 2012. He actually began his career with a loss, to Yukiya Hanabusa, before reeling off a 9 fight unbeaten run, taking his record to a rather peculiar looking 5-1-4 (1). Since then his he's gone 5-2 (3) though has notably been stopped in both of those losses, and has failed to get a top level domestic win.
In his biggest bout to date Todaka lost in a bout for Japanese Light Flyweight title against Kenichi Horikawa, just last year. In that bout he was out boxed, out fought and and forced to retire at the end of the 8th round.
Sadly, given how long his career has been, there isn't much footage on Todaka available, however he's shown little in terms of power, which we suspect a fighter will need to get Yamauchi's respect, and he's also going to be under-sized against the surprisingly imposing Yamauchi.
For Todaka it's the bout against Horikawa that we suspect tells us what we need to about this one. He wasn't really competitive at all with Horikawa, who was too good, too skilled and too experienced. Whilst Yamauchi lacks the experience of Horikawa he's is a very talented young man and a naturally bigger fighter than Horikawa.
We suspect that Todaka will struggle with the size, speed, aggression and power of Yamauchi who will break him down in the middle rounds, to claim his first professional title.
Prediction - TKO5 Yamauchi
On February 14th we'll see Filipino slugger Froilan Saludar (31-3-1, 22) make his first defense of WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title as he takes on fellow puncher Ryoji Fukunaga (11-4, 11) at the Korakuen Hall. On paper this isn't a bout that we expect to see a lot of international attention, but with both men possessing serious power there is a real chance this could end up being a bit of a sleeper classic.
Saludar's career has been an odd one. He was once tipped as a future star of the Filipino scene, before suffering a loss in his 21st bout, when he was taken out by McWilliams Arroyo in a world title eliminator. He would later come up short against Takuma Inoue and then lose in a world title fight in 2018 against Sho Kimura. Those losses essentially saw him being written off, and he'd gone from 19-0-1 (12) to 28-3-1 (19). Since then however he has quietly rebuilt, with 3 T/KO wins, including a spectacular one of unbeaten Japanese hopeful Tsubasa Murachi last September to win the WBO Asia Pacific title.
Early in his career many in the Philippines touted Saludar as a future star. So far his career has fallen short, a long way short, but at 30 years old his career is certainly not over. He's now more mature than he was younger, a little less bouncy and less wasteful in terms of energy, though there does still seem to be a bit too much wasteful movement in his work. He's never had the greatest of engine, but seems to use his experience more to hide that, moving more intelligently and occasionally "old manning" his way through rounds. It's not the most exciting thing to see, but given how exciting he is when he lets his hands go it's certainly not a bad game plan for the "Sniper", who has shown he can strike at any moment. It's that experience that also helps Saludar defensively and he's certainly looking like a man who rides shot better now than he did just a few years ago.
The 33 year old Fukunaga is a bit of an unknown if we're being honest. His record suggests he's a monster puncher with 11T/KO's from 11 wins but the quality of those wins is relatively low. His best win to date came in the 2016 All Japan Rookie of the Year, against Kota Fujimoto, and since then he has really not done anything of note. In fact since his triumph in the All Japan Rookie of the Year Fujimoto is 3-2 (2), though the two losses have come to good competition in the form of Yuta Matsuo and Kongfah CP Freshmart, both in competitive bouts.
Despite his relatively weak wins Fukunaga does actually look to be a pretty solid boxer-puncher, albeit one with questionable defense. He moves forward looking to fire off his stiff jab and uncork his thunderbolt of a southpaw left hand. Defensively his hands are lower than they should be, but he seems to be trying to draw mistakes out of his opponents, and opening them up for counter shots with his head movement. Against the low level opponents he's been taking out it's a tactic that has worked, but against the better fights, such as the ones that have beaten him in recent years, it's not been as effective.
We certainly believe that Fukunaga has the power to hurt Saludar if he lands clean. Sadly for Fukunaga we don't see him landing too much clean, and would expect Sauldar to have the tools to out box him. In fact we wouldn't be surprised if Saludar saw how 1-dimensional Fukunaga was and started lining him up for big counters of his own by the middle rounds, and stopping the challenger.
Fukunaga has a puncher's chance, of course he does, but that is pretty much all he has, from what we've seen. Our prediction is a Saludar win, inside the distance, likely from a big overhand right in the middle rounds.
Prediction - TKO6 Saludar
A year ago Japan's Takeshi Inoue (15-1-1, 9) was on the verge of the biggest fight of his career, a bout with WBO Light Middleweight champion Jaime Munguia. Although he lost to Munguia he impressed with his heart and determination and this coming Saturday he's back in the ring seeking the first defense of his second reign as the WBO Asia Pacific Light Middleweight title, as he takes on China's Cheng Su (14-2-1, 8). The situation couldn't be much more different to the one he found himself in last January, but a win here keeps him in the mix for another world title fight, whilst a loss is unthinkable for the 30 year from Tokyo.
Inoue, for those who missed the Munguia bout, is a rugged, aggressive fighter who comes in pretty square on and looks to make a fight of things. Early in his career he did seem to be more of a boxer-fighter but as his career has progressed he has become more and more of a pressure fighter, often abandoning his jab to ply forward behind his guard and get things up close. This sort of change seemed to happen in 2016 or 2017, and was particularly notable when he beat Akinori Watanabe. That was a clear win for Inoue but seemed like he could have made it far easier for himself had he made the most of his jab. Whatever the reason for the change it's not been bad for his career and since beating Watanabe we've seen Inoue unify the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles, fight for a world title and then recapture the WBO Asia Pacific belt.
Although the bull strong Inoue lost to Munguia his record is actually solid, at least in regards to the regional scene. Wins over Akinori Watanabe, Koshinmaru Saito, Riku Nagahama, Ratchasi Sithsaithong, Yuji Nonaka and Patomsuk Pathompothong give him wins almost every notable fighter on the regional scene at 154lbs, barring current Japanese champion Hironobu Matsunaga. Though of course there is a gulf between the regional scene at the weight and the world level, which he'll be hoping to mix with once again later in the year.
As for Cheng Su the Chinese challenger, who is also 30, is much less well-known and well established. The southpaw from Shenyang stands at 5'11 and will be fighting outside of China for the first time in his career. Going through his record it's hard to pick out anything noteworthy, other than a win last May over Filipino Junjesie Ibgos, who used to be a Featherweight and is 0-4 outside of the Philippines. Footage of him however is more worrying than his competition.
Watching Su we see a rather slow, lumbering fighter who technically looks "alright" but lacks the tools needed to even make a legitimate mark on the regional scene. He seems to understand the basics doesn't always put them into practice. He's slow, lacks real snap on his punches, and when he throws his straight left hand his defenses completely fall apart. He follows opponents around the ring and looks like he's fortunate to be fighting at such a low level that his mistakes have rarely been punished, except in his 2017 loss to Nikolozi Gviniashvili.
On paper this might look like an interesting match up, but we weren't joking when we said Inoue can't afford to lose here. His entire career would be discredited with a loss to someone as limited as Su, who he really should be dealing with inside the distance. We expect to see Inoue closing the gap between the two men, working away on the inside and stopping Su relatively early on.
Anything but a stoppage for Inoue should be viewed as a disappointment.
Prediction - TKO5 Inoue
The Watanabe show to end 2019 is a huge stacked card, with 6 title bouts in total, including 2 regional title bouts. The most interesting of the two, will see WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight champion Ginjiro Shigeoka (4-0, 3) taking a huge step up in class to take on Filipino challenger Rey Loreto (25-14, 17). For Shigeoka this will be his first defense, and a win will almost certainly see him being fast tracked to a world title fight in the new year. A win for the champion however, is not a given and Loreto has proven time and time again that he is not someone we should ever write off, despite his less than stellar record.
The 20 year old Japanese fighter is, along with his older brother Yudai, regarded as one of the best talented in Japan. He went 56-1 as an amateur, and has been fast tracked since turning professional, defeating Joel Lino in his third bout and Clyde Azarcon in his 4th bout, for the WBO Asia Pacific title. In the ring he's an aggressive, super sharp pressure fighter. He's one of the most naturally gifted young fighters in the sport today, and combines very high ring IQ, with brilliant balance, powerful punching and sensational movement. More problematic for opponents is that Shigeoka is a southpaw, adding yet another problem for every opponent to solve.
Of course there are questions that still need to be asked of Shigeoka before anointing him the next star of Japanese boxing. We don't know what his chin is like, we don't know what happens when he's under pressure, whether he can fight 12 rounds, and we don't know how he copes with a fellow southpaw, though we'll see that answered here against Loreto. For the first in his career Shigeoka is going up against someone who has proven himself as a a tough, thunder punching fighter, and we expect to see him being forced to answer a lot of questions, win or lose.
On paper Loreto has a journeyman's record, but in reality his record only tells a fraction of the story. The 29 year old Filipino began his career in 2008, as a teenager, and suffered 4 straight losses. He managed to turn things around, but struggled for consistency, and was 7-7 by the time he turned 20. From 7-7 Loreto struggled to get going, 4 of his following 5 to fall to 8-11 (4), but since then has been impressive, going 17-4 (13). Of course it's not all about the number, and Loreto has been scoring notable wins in recent years, beating the likes of Wisanu Por Nobnum, Pornsawan Porpramook and Nkosinathi Joyi, twice. That winning run lead Loreto to a world title fight in 2017, against WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart. Sadly for Loreto he lost to Knockout and has only fought twice since then, against very limited opposition.
Through his career Loreto has always proven to be tough, a massive puncher, and very dangerous. Technically he's fair crude, but strong and bull like, giving himself a chance to land counters when opponents open up. He can be out boxed, but he only needs to really land one shot to turn the fight around, as we saw in the first Joyi fight. At his best Loreto is a threat for anyone aside from the divisional elite, however with inactivity it's unclear what he'll offer.
If Loreto is 75% the fighter he once was he will be a threat through out the bout. Anything less than that and we suspect Shigeoka will make a huge statement and stop the Filipino, likely from body shots. If Loreto is at his best however, he stands a real chance of getting the upset. We suspect it'll be clear early as to what sort of mentality Loreto is in, and he has been given a lot of time to prepare for this, so he should be up for it.
We expect to see Shigeoka showing a bit more patience than usual, trying to figure out Loreto's southpaw stance, and being cautious early on. He'll keep the pressure on but do so with a higher guard than usual, keeping his defense tight and slowly chipping away at Loreto. He'll have to avoid the heavy return fire, but his reflexes so far have looked impressive and we suspect they will allow him to get in, an out, safely. It may only take one clean shot from Loreto to change the fight, but he still needs to land it clean, and that doesn't look like it will be easy to do against Shigeoka.
Prediction - UD12 Shigeoka
The year is set to end with a bang thanks to a bumper show from Watanabe. Whilst much of the focus will be on the two main world title fights the card is an interesting one through out, and potentially the most explosive of the bouts will be at regional title level.
The bout in question will see Japan's Yusaku Kuga (19-3-1, 13) clash with Filipino Jhunriel Ramonal (16-8-6, 9) for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Bantamweight title. It's not a bout that will get much attention, or looks particularly competitive, but is one that could be very brutal, and very explosive.
The favourite going in will be Kuga, a big punching Japanese fighter who is the current Japanese national champion. Kuga is fairly basic, but very heavy handed, exciting and aggressive. He's someone who can be out boxed, as we saw last year when he was stopped by Shingo Wake, but is extremely dangerous and is able to have a toe to toe war with pretty much anyone in and around the regional scene, as we saw against Ryoichi Tamura.
After starting his career 6-1-1 (4) Kuga has gone 13-2 (9), avenging one of those losses and notching wins over the likes of Sukkasem Kietyongyuth, Yasutaka Ishimoto, Jonathan Baat and Ryoichi Tamura. Not only has he proven his ability against good domestic and regional level opponents he has also been scoring those wins early on, taking 10 of his wins in the first 4 rounds.
On paper Ramonal looks like a very limited fighter, with 8 losses in his 30 career bouts. In reality however he's a much better fighter than his record suggests. He's not a world beater, a long way from it, but given genuine preparation time, he's a dangerous opponent. Going through his record it is a real mess, an inconsistent mess. He has shown he can mix at the top of the regional scene, fighting to a narrow loss in an OPBF title fight in 2011, but then has lost to a number of domestic level fighters. When he's on point he's talented, but he can be made to look slow, sloppy and can be easily out boxed.
Coming in to this Ramonal is unbeaten in 4 bouts, going back to a 2014 decision loss to Sho Nakazawa. Since then he has fought to a draw with Jenel Lausa and most recently scored a stunning TKO in over Shingo Wake, a win that has essentially put him into this title fight. In that win over Wake Ramonal was cut, being out boxed, but remained a hungry and dangerous fighter, with that danger being realised in frighteningly graphic fashion.
Given that both fighters are heavy handed, both get in the ring to win and both are happy to fire off bombs, this has the potential to be very explosive. It's easy to back Kuga, and he is rightfully the favourite, but given how Ramonal's power took out Wake, it's clear that Kuga can't take a win for granted here. Instead Kuga will need fight smartly, but should manage to break down Ramonal, likely busting him up with his heavy hands and forcing the referee to step in.
We're anticipating a bout with a lot of tension here, some fun exchanges, but eventually the fight will be beat out of Ramonal.
Prediction TKO5 Kuga
Among the many bouts in the pre-Christmas period we'll see WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion Yuki Strong Kobayashi (15-8, 9) make his first defense, as he takes on unheralded Korean challenger Ki Chang Go (8-3, 4) at the Sumiyoshi Ward Center.
For Kobayashi this is a great chance to not only defend his title, but to also put memories of his loss to Keita Kurihara behind him, with that loss coming in the same venue almost a year to the day of this fight. On the other hand it gives Go a chance to pick up a win in Japan, a country where he lost last year to Masahiro Sakamoto, a former stablemate of Kobayashi's at the Muto Gym. Sadly it's that bout between Go and Sakamoto that make us pretty confident in feeling that this will be little more than a mismatch in favour of the champion.
Kobayashi is no world beater, don't get us wrong, but he's a fighter who has developed from his losses and is much, much, better than his record suggests. Since his 2011 debut he has been inconsistent, but has turned things around well in recent years, following a 6-3 (4) start, and in fact he was once 10-7 (5). His recent winning form hasn't seen him blitzing over-matched foes, instead he has been performing well against the likes of Vincent Astrolabio and Ben Mananquil, with the win over Mananquil being his title winning bout.
Kobayashi's 23 fight career has seen him suffer 3 stoppage losses, but last December he showed his heart and toughness, pulling himself off the canvas 4 times to lose a razor thin decision to Keita Kurihara. That loss seems to have solidified Kobayashi who looked better than ever last time out. He showed an aggressive boxing mentality, pushing and physically imposing himself against Mananquil, dragging the Filipino into a fight before breaking him down. He looked strong, exciting and kept coming, breaking down Mananquil in an overlooked war. There was real desire in the way he fought, and whilst it wasn't the most skilled and technical of showings, it was exciting and aggressive.
Go made his debut in 2016 and despite losing his first 2 bouts has since gone 7-1, though all of those wins have come in Korea, and pretty much of the wins have come to either novices, or fighters with less than 50% wins. His best win, on paper, is a narrow decision over the then 3-0-1 Joo Ho Lee, and sort of says it all. He has shown he belongs in this level. In fact he hasn't shown he even belongs even close to this level.
In his most notable bout to date Go was stopped by Masahiro Sakamoto in 2018. Sakamoto out boxed Go, out fought Go and broke Go down, behind his calculated jab. As we've seen Sakamoto isn't much of a puncher, he's not a naturally big man, and yet he managed to beat down Go. With Kobayashi being a bigger man we expect Go to be taken out again here. Not only that but we expect it to be rather quick as well.
Prediction - TKO2 Kobayashi
The EDION Arena Osaka is a busy venue on December 8th hosting 2 shows, with a combined 3 title bouts. On the second of those cards we'll see Shinsei gym promoting a low key card that really is all about it's main event, the only non-4 rounder on the show. That main event will see fast rising youngster Musashi Mori (10-0, 6) defending his WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title against once beaten puncher Takuya Mizuno (17-1-1, 14), in what looks like a mouth watering match up between talented young men.
Mori really burst on to the scene very quickly. After debuting in December 2016 he would go on to claim the 2017 Rookie of the Year, stopping the big puncher Zirolian Riku in the final. By the end of 2018 he had notched wins over Allen Vallespin and Richard Pumicpic, with the win over Pumicpic netting him his WBO Asia Pacific title, and a defense against Pumicpic in a rematch earlier this year showed that he really is a fighter still learning. Talking about learning Mori has began linking up with Ismael Salas, who trained him for his last fight, and real changes were made in how the youngster tames his aggression and boxes more smartly.
With Salas again behind him Mori is expected to make his second defense here against Mizuno, and continue to build on the skills, power and speed he has shown. The one real notable flaw early on was his defense, but that now appears to be getting corrected, and although their are a lot of areas for Salas to tweak with his new charge Mori looks like the type of youngster with the foundations in place to go a very, very long way.
At 24 years old Mizuno is a mature man, whilst Mori is still only 20, and with 19 fights already under bis belt since his debut more than 6 years ago, he is a man who is very much the more experienced fighter. Notably he has had more soft touches than Mori, but he has also scored a number of solid wins, such as a victory in July over Roli Gasca and a 2017 over Yuki Iriguchi. Like Mori he made his mark quite young, and reached the West Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2015, though lost to Tenta Kiyose in what is his only defeat to date.
Watch Mizuno it seems like he is someone who has the tools to go far, but is missing the mentor that Mori has. Mizuno has power, work rate and desire, but needs to be polished, a lot. During his 19 fights he has had 5 that have ended by majority decision or split decision, going 3-1-1 in those 5 bouts, and it very much feels like he needs to be shown how to use his power better and how to control fights more. He has always struggled when he's been unable to beat opponents with his power, and that needs to be sorted out sooner rather than later.
Sadly for Mizuno we see his biggest strength, his power, also being his weakest point. If that power can't take his opponent out he really doesn't look good. Mori looks like he can take a shot if he needs to, and can also avoid shots. His defense was his weakness but with Salas working on Mori's technical skills we suspect his defense will be tighter here than ever before. Mori is likely to need to stay on point, but we suspect he'll box smart, temper that aggression further and take a wide decision against the dangerous but flawed Mizuno.
Prediction - UD12 Mori
Having canned the old "Full Schedule" of Asianboxing we have instead decided to concentrate more on the major bouts. This section, the "Preview" section will look at major bouts involving OPBF and national titles. Hopefully leading to a more informative style for, you the reader.